The Carter County jury trial docket that was set for November 4 has been canceled.
Court Clerk Renee Bryant said the majority of defendants in the cases that had been set for the jury trial docket call pled out. Others were resolved through agreements, continuances, or in rare instances, dismissals, said District Attorney Craig Ladd.
“The lack of a need for a jury trial docket is really not entirely uncommon. I’ve seen that occur on a number of occasions during my time here as a prosecutor,” Ladd said.
One of the largest cases settled before reaching a jury trial this year was that of 29-year-old Joshua Scott, Ladd said. On April 7, 2016, Scott was charged with first-degree murder, shooting with intent to kill and possession of a firearm in connection with a double shooting that claimed the life of Erik Tucker and critically wounded Jennifer Alexander.
While the case was pending, Scott was evaluated by a psychologist who determined that he was suffering from multiple personality disorder at the time of his crimes and subsequently was unable to comprehend the “wrongfulness” of his actions, Ladd said.
“I, along with Mr. Tucker’s family and Ms. Alexander, was very skeptical about the psychologist’s opinion,” Ladd said. “Nevertheless, the law requires that once his sanity at the time of the offenses has been brought into question, the State bears the burden to prove his sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The case had been pending for over three years due to “factors outside of the control of the court or district attorney’s office” when Scott’s lawyers offered to not proceed with his defense of insanity in September, Ladd said.
Scott’s counsel offered to waive his right to a jury trial and resolve the case with a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.
“I counseled with Mr. Tucker’s family, as well as Ms. Alexander, and advised them of the pros and cons of entering such an agreement versus trying the case to a jury,” Ladd said. “Mr. Tucker’s family and Ms. Alexander were ready to have the matter finally resolved.”
In accordance with this agreement, on Oct. 4, 2019, Scott pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison on counts of first-degree murder and shooting with the intent to kill, with an additional 20 years in prison on the count of felonious possession of a firearm.
Scott will be required to serve 38 years and 3 months before being eligible for parole consideration, meaning that he will be over 68 years old before he can become eligible for parole consideration, Ladd said.